Joris Hoekstra (TU-Delft) presented results of the UPLIFT qualitative research work – 40 interviews with young people – about problems they face and their relationships with institutions and policy.
This was followed by discussion on what the Amsterdam Youth Board did within UPLIFT, first from the perspective of process supervisor, Hanna Smit (!WOON), then from Sabien Asselbergs (Lieven de Key).
After discussing the UPLIFT experience, focus shifted to the Netherlands more broadly. One of the conclusions was that there is little overview on all the different types of youth panels in the Netherlands. However, there are some umbrella organisations and initiatives dealing with youth participation, such as the NJI, the NJR and the SER.
There was then plenty of discussion about what role youth panels play and could play at the local level, in policy-making and policy implementation in the Netherlands, both in a plenary discussion and in the brainstorming round.
During the brainstorming round, a World-café setting discussed four different topics within the themes of youth cocreation & project UPLIFT. Below is a summary of the findings from these discussions.
1. Advice VS co-creation
Youth panels are mainly concerned with solicited and unsolicited advice. They are, as it were, the eyes and ears of the young people they represent. When they identify a problem, they try to find a solution to it, which is then presented to policymakers in the form of an advice. Here, it is very important that policymakers are open to the solutions put forward, and take the young people’s input seriously. Possibly, this can be enforced by giving policymakers the obligation to respond substantively to advice from a youth panel.
In counselling, young people come up with solutions and it is then up to policymakers whether or not to adopt these solutions. Instead, in co-creation young people and policymakers work together on solutions. This has the advantage that realistic solutions can emerge that are acceptable to both young people and policymakers. Co-creation is an intensive process that is especially suitable for more complex issues. Because co-creation requires young people and policymakers to work together at the same time and place, it can be logistically difficult to plan. It also requires thorough preparation and clear management of expectations.
However, when these conditions are met, co-creation can bring significant added value, ensuring policies that are more in tune with young people’s wishes and needs. On top of this, the mutual interaction between young people and policymakers can lead to young people feeling taken seriously, and gaining new knowledge and skills. In turn, policymakers will become more open to young people’s experiences and work in a more participatory way.
2. Information platform for young people on housing
This brainstorm was about one of the ideas the UPLIFT Youth Board in Amsterdam had come up with: the Housing Starters Platform.
The Housing Starters Platform is a plan for a digital platform/website about housing in Amsterdam/Netherlands, especially designed for young people. The aim of this platform is to provide young people with one central, convenient place with clear and updated information on all aspects of housing, from finding a home to knowing their rights and obligations as tenants. On the platform, young people can find not only general information about housing and tenancy rights, but possibly also about the supply of (social) rental housing and future new housing developments. In addition, the platform can also provide the opportunity to send signals that can be taken up by relevant partners. In this way, problems in the housing market can be addressed quickly and efficiently.
Below are the most important points that were discussed:
- What is added value of a central platform for young people?
- Housing is hugely important for young people, but information is mostly unclear and scattered.
- Many young people who grow up in an environment with a lot of knowledge of the housing system are more likely to learn that they need to register for social housing on time, etc. But this is also important for young people whose parents do not have this knowledge and thus cannot provide them with the necessary information.
- The platform can also be an easy way to check info. Parents who do have some knowledge often do not have a complete picture either.
- Create partnerships for building, maintaining and promoting the platform, but also collaborations with already existing platforms.
- Finance, so how could such a platform be funded.
- The platform should be for and by young people, so how can young people voice experiences, concerns, wishes and support each other, e.g. through a buddy system.
3. How to optimally involve, reach & retain young people in a co-creation process
- In the beginning, set clear frameworks for both sides (what is the assignment, how long will the process take)
- To what extent are young people involved? Where do young people have or do not have influence? Make this explicit.
- Agree on what the process will look like beforehand with the participants
- Participation should not be a fake obligation. Real participation or no participation!
- As an institutional partner, do not promise things you cannot deliver
- If it becomes apparent during the process that something extra is needed (e.g. in terms of time/effort), make room for this as institutional partner
- Try to reach out to (vulnerable) young people as much as possible
- Reach out through gatekeepers: key figures from their neighbourhood; youth workers who are already in contact with them.
- Use credible messengers, even paid where possible
- Find young people who are personally affected by the subject. One does need to be interested/passionate before they just join something.
- Joint reflection is important. Schedule regular feedback in advance during the process.
- Always keep Youth Board members informed about what will be done with the results and input. No radio silence. Why is it taking a long time? And if something fails, why did it fail?
Time & Reward
- Don’t rule out the possibility of a participant becoming a paid worker. In this way, this can also act as a credible messenger.
- Volunteer pay & expenses are a must, but make sure young people have intrinsic motivation to participate in the Board.
- Be honest and transparent about duration, remuneration, etc. Also do this in consultation with the participants; especially if anything changes.
- Invest in (long-term) relationships. Reward loyalty.
- Hand over responsibility. Provide a title that looks good on a CV.
4. What would you like to use a Youth Board for as an institutional partner?
On what topics?
- Anything! – as long as the framework is clear
- The new Housing Distribution System
- “Headache files” – as long as the framework is clear
What conditions should you set and agreements should you make as an institutional partner?
- Agree clear expectations with Youth Board members
- Specify what you want to achieve: what do you want an opinion on, what do you want a say in?
- What influence can young people have? Or not have?
- Also ask the question back: what do young people want to have a say in?
- Let young people themselves decide what they want and do not want to be involved in
- Different levels of involvement/duration: 1x opinion or long-term involvement
- Define term of the process with a clear goal
- How many hours will it take?
- You can also bet on a broader ‘Youth Pool’ to fish out – ‘who’s thinking this time?’
What else should you consider as an institutional partner?
- Show your appreciation for panel members; don’t just take their efforts for granted.
- Give feedback; also about why something is not happening
- Schedule short ‘check-in’ moments